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MySocialGoodNews is dedicated to sharing news about
social entrepreneurship, impact investing, philanthropy
and corporate social responsibility.

Crowdfunding for Social Good

Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

Monthly Archives: January 2015

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Human Slavery at the Super Bowl? The US is #1 Consumer of Human Trafficking in the World

“There are 20 million trafficking victims this year. That is equivalent to one out of every five of the 111 million people who will watch the Super Bowl on Sunday Feb 1. We have to do something about it right now.”

According to Nita Belles, human trafficking expert and author of the book In Our Backyard, there’s data that shows that between dollars spent in the US and overseas, U.S. citizens buy more human slaves, many of them children, than any other country.

“People think human trafficking is carried out primarily in foreign countries, but it’s right here on U.S. soil,” Ms. Belles says. “Thousands of children and adults in every state of the union are lured by predatory traffickers and forced into prostitution, pornography, farm labor, domestic labor, manufacturing, hotel services, restaurants, and other activities.”

“There are more slaves today than any time in history. This happens not just at Super Bowl and other high population events, or in big cities, but in every town, in suburbs, and in the country-side all across this country. The human trafficking problem cuts across all racial lines, age brackets, and socio-economic levels.”

It’s not just at big events like the Super Bowl and other major events that attract huge crowds. This is happening 365 days a year and in every nook and cranny in the United States.

Here’s a summary of the problem.

  • There are over 20 million trafficking victims this year.
  • Human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing crime in the world
  • 1 in 3 Children who runaway will be lured towards human trafficking by seemingly caring people within 48 hours of running away.
  • 1 in 7 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2013 were likely human trafficking victims.(National Center For Missing and Exploited Children)
  • Human traffickers entice children to run away via social media and while playing video games in the “safety” of our living rooms.
  • Although runaways and at risk children are a high percentage of the victims, this crime is happening to children from middle class and upper middle class homes.
  • Traffickers are recruiting children right out of their bedrooms via smart phones/gaming systems and computers
  • Young people are increasingly being coerced or forced into human exploitation
  • According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 100,000 children are at risk every year
  • This doesn’t just happen to girls, boys are trafficked as well

In Our Backyard describes real life stories of human trafficking victims, survivors, perpetrators and people who are fighting this enormous problem. Belles describes numerous examples of the situations in which girls, boys, women, and men relate their traumatic experiences after being conned or charmed with promises of security and high income, or lured to the U.S. by phony employment agencies. Among them:

  • A 16 year old girl from a nice upper middle class home met a new friend at school who introduced her to an exciting 20-something man. They “fell in love” and within three months she went missing and he forced her into prostitution.
  • An attractive master chef in Manila answered an ad for a restaurant position in America. She was chosen, but upon arrival in the U.S., she had to sign a binding multi-year contract.  She was forced to work 12 to 15 hours a day for an abusive boss, unable to find a way out, right here in the United States.
  • A girl who could not afford college was offered a modeling career earning thousands of dollars a month. She was flown to Los Angeles and housed in a mansion. Her caretaker surprised her with a bill for travel, housing, and photo shoots. She could help pay the huge debts by posing nude, and later in films that turned out to be hardcore pornography, as well as forced prostitution.

“Escape is difficult.” says Ms. Belles, “Victims are closely watched and are often traumatically bonded to their captors. We can all assist in rescuing victims by learning how to recognize human trafficking in our midst and knowing how to get them help when we see it.”

Questions and Answers for Nita Belles

How big is the human trafficking problem?

This happens not just in the big cities, but in every town, every countryside in this great country. There are more slaves today than any time in history. The problem cuts across all racial lines, age brackets, and socioeconomic levels.

Another myth is that it involves only the poor, the foster kids, or youth who have been in trouble. The first chapter In Our Backyard is about a 16 year old, straight A student from a nice Christian home whose parents marriage was intact. She was lured in to human trafficking by another student at her school.

People think it can’t happen to them, to their kids, but it can.

Tips For Parents To Keep Their Children Safe:

  1. Educate your children about human trafficking. That it is here, what it looks like and to talk to you or another responsible adult if they think they see it. If they are able, have them read In Our Backyard. It will help them recognize it.
  2. Communicate with your children, and let them talk to you without judgment. They need to know they are safer with you than anywhere else. One rule we had with our children was that if they did something wrong and they told us before we found out, they might have some consequences but their punishment would be less than if we found out another way.
  3. Technology is a big part of how human trafficking happens with youth. Know your children’s passwords, know what is on their phone. A good rule is “as long as you live under our roof, we have access to passwords, emails, texts, etc.” Your child’s privacy is important but so is their safety. If you talk to parents whose children have been human trafficked, without exception, they will all tell you they wish they had monitored their computers, cell phone and activities on social media.
  4. Technological devices now exist which include :
    • GPS tracking devices which can be placed on phones, clothes, and in backpacks which help parents and authorities track your child and find them when they first go missing.
    • DNA scent kits which can be used to help authorities and dogs track a scent trail.
  5. Know your children’s friends. Have them over to your home. Feed them a pan of brownies, a batch of cookies and sit down and talk with them. Know where they hang out and what they are like.
  6. Get youth involved in positive things, community groups, sports, music, community service, and church youth groups. Surround them with positive peer pressure.

How to Identify a Human Trafficking Danger — What to Look For

Ordinary citizens can be trained to recognize the signs and what they can do to stop it, particularly at crowded events like the Super Bowl. Possible situations to look for include:

  • A young girl who is with someone who is older, partying and/or romantically involved and that person seems to be in charge of where she goes, what she does and who she talks to
  • Someone who appears to be soliciting for prostitution (majority are human trafficked, even though they may claim to be on their own.)
  • Those dressed in a provocative way, are exceptionally flirty and repeatedly check in with someone else on a cell phone or in person.
  • Someone who seems to have a bodyguard, or friends watching from a distance.
  • Someone who is avoiding normal eye contact with others, unless soliciting
  • Someone who acts a bit skittish, fearful, or appears drugged or drunk
  • Many people coming and going from a single hotel room at all hours
  • Teens who are trying to appear as adults and carry and present fake ID
  • Physical appearance shows signs of injuries, abuse or torture.
  • Hotel housekeeping staff notices unusual amount of condoms, lubricants, etc. in hotel rooms.

What are the most important red flags people should look for?

There are several red flags people should look for and if present pay very close attention. You should pay heightened attention to people you see who:

  • are not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • are under 18 and are providing commercial human acts
  • work long hours with no breaks or unusual restrictions
  • avoid eye contact and show signs of physical abuse or restraint, confinement or torture
  • are unable to clearly explain where they live
  • are fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, or paranoid

Indicators of human trafficking in the lives of those around you:

Situation: Teen receives an offer that sounds too good to be true — a dream life, fancy cars, fancy clothes, fast living for seemingly nothing
Solution: keep in good communication with your children, do things with them to build relationship.

Situation: Teens whose circle of friends change completely and their new friends may have a gangster or provocative look
Solution: Know your children’s friends, don’t be afraid to be the parent and say no.

Situation: Children are bringing home new cell phones – gifts from a new friend.
Solution: Find out where the cell phones came from, confiscate them, and contact authorities if necessary

Situation: Children have increased and unexplained absences from school
Solution: Work with school to ascertain what is happening and cooperate to find your child immediately in an unexpected absence.

Situation: Children/teens come home with unexplained money or gifts.
Solution: Find out where they came from. Bring in outside help from counselors, relatives or others who can help. Don’t ignore or hide this to save reputation. Get help!

Situation: New tattoos
Solution: Find out who did the tattoo, find out who was with them for the tattoo and what does it mean? Who else has the same tattoo?

Situation: Girls, especially teens with a new boyfriend who may be several years older
Solution: Restrict contact with him. If that doesn’t work consider relocating your child to protect them.

How can people help the victims?

Victims that have been rescued … are hoping that they can get the help needed to find a new, safe, happy life. Human trafficking victims, particularly minors, have a tough road in front of them even under the best circumstances. They need trauma-based treatment, kindness, understanding, a stable and non-threating environment and lots of time. Many will need professional counseling and medical or mental health services to recover from the atrocities that happened to them.

There are several professional organizations who provide support and help people in the throes of domestic minor human trafficking, adult human trafficking and labor trafficking. Belles can help with those referrals.

What you should do if you find a trafficking situation

Belles advises anyone who suspects human trafficking to call local authorities or the toll-free 24-hour hotline for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center: 888-3737-888, or text BeFree (233733). Its website is www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking/.

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In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking in America and What We Can Do To Stop It

Nita Belles

New edition coming out June 2, 2015 Trade soft cover, Baker Books

Available in bookstores online and nationwide wherever books are sold.

For more information visit www.nitabelles.com

About the Author:

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Nita Belles, is the Central Oregon Regional Director for Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans (OATH). A former Associate Pastor, she holds a Master’s Degree in Theology with a concentration in Women’s Concerns.

Belles leads a team of professionals who volunteer with In Our Backyard by fighting human trafficking during the celebrations surrounding the Super Bowl each year. She works with each states Office of the Attorney General, other government agencies and law enforcement to help prevent human trafficking and rescue victims who have been trafficked.

Belles has worked in the business arena as well as with victims/survivors of domestic violence, specializing in working with churches on related faith issues.

What People Are Saying

“Nita Belles has done us a great favor. She not only addresses the sensational aspects of the problem in a clearly documented manner — she has the chutzpah to point out the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. “

——Dr. Ted Roberts, CSAT CMAT, Best selling author, pastor and clinical counselor, Founder, Pure Desire Ministries International

“Nita Belles uses stories, statistics and history to illustrate the scourge of human trafficking that exists in America today.  That this crime against humanity targets our children in such great numbers is an outrage that should not be tolerated. In Our Backyard is a call to action…”

——MARC KLAAS, President and founder of KlaasKids and Beyond Missing, frequent guest on CNN’s Nancy Grace and other news networks

“Belles shows how trafficking victims aren’t “illegal aliens”; they are ensnared migrants and, often, pimped U.S. citizens…This book does as much as any to shed light on how economic forces—greed and demand, and even advertising—propel trafficking.”

—— MARK LAGON, former U.S. Ambassador, and Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP), former Executive Director and CEO of the Polaris Project, and Chair, International Relations and Security, and Visiting Professor, Georgetown University, MSFS Program

“This book is a must-read for anyone concerned about issues of justice and compassion in this generation. Though clear in exposing evil, there is no harshness in her tone. Her words are always marked by hope.”

——DAVID JOEL HAMILTON, Vice President for Strategic Innovation, University of the Nations, Youth with a Mission (YWAM)

“The reality is that trafficking is taking place right on our doorstep! Belles gives a compelling, comprehensive account of the veracity of trafficking in the United States. The narratives are an eye opener—revealing the hardships and hopelessness of countless thousands of victims who are the commodity of this multi-million dollar industry. Shame on us!”

—— GABRIELLA VAN BREDA, Executive Director of World Impact Network, Board of Directors of Foursquare Foundation

“I have had the opportunity to see first-had the passion Ms. Belles has for the victims of human trafficking all across our country, not just in her home state of Oregon. I’m very pleased to have had the honor to work alongside Nita. It is somewhat overwhelming to work in the presence of someone who has truly made a difference in so many lives.”

____HEATHER P. Wagner, Special Assistant Attorney General, Mississippi

Leading the Way to Zero Waste Solutions For Businesses

Avangard Innovative Partnership Adds More Options to Revolutionary Natura Zero™ Program

HOUSTON – January 28, 2015 – Avangard Innovative (AI), the largest recycler in the Americas with operations in 12 countries, has announced the newest addition to its Natura Zero™ worldwide network. Asset Value Management Services (AVM) will add another level to AI’s passionate mission of zero waste to landfills by now being able to offer Natura Zero™ clients the safe and secure disposal of out-of-date IT assets and e-waste.

“We continue to provide and maximize the value of Natura Zero™ to deliver total solutions to zero waste and this joint venture with AVM helps us achieve and enhance our goals while ensuring our customers meet theirs,” said Avangard Innovative CEO, Rick Perez. “Through partnering with like-minded businesses, we are ensuring our customers are able to efficiently recycle, reduce, and reclaim spent resources in everyday operations,” Perez added.

The Natura Zero™ program launched in 2013 to focus on zero waste to landfill initiatives and enables customers to reach their zero waste goals while minimizing waste and maximizing the volume to drive value and profitability of their recyclables. Proprietary Natura Zero™ software management system with remote tracking and reporting also generates unparalleled analysis and statistics on material type, weight, trees saved, oil barrels equivalent, etc.

AVM is a leader in technical asset management and specializes in the safe and secure disposal of out-of-date IT assets, technology value recovery and recycling management. Annually AVM processes a large volume of retired IT assets from Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies, performing full-service for end-of-life IT assets with cost-effective pricing while providing strict compliance with environmental rules and regulations.

“As technology continues to advance at phenomenal speeds, so will e-waste,” Eddie Davis, President of AVM, explained, “we are excited to partner with Avangard Innovative and expand our reach to make an even larger impact.” “Forming trusted partnerships allow us to be a convenient, ‘one stop shop’ for our customers. Together we can have a dramatic, positive impact on the environment for this and future generations,” Perez added.

As businesses continue to seek customized solutions for their waste needs that are responsible and profitable, having the resources, such as those provided through Natura Zero™ and its partnerships, will continue to be pivotal as we strive for zero waste solutions. For a complete list of service offerings and to learn more about Avangard Innovative and Natura Zero™, please visit www.avaicg.com.

Leading Native American Business Event to Return to Las Vegas, March 9th-12th

National Reservation Economic Summit (RES), presented by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, to take place at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino

January 30, 2015 – Las Vegas, NV —The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (National Center) will host its National Reservation Economic Summit (National RES) from March 9th – 12th at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. National RES is another multifaceted event from the National Center, which will feature unparalleled access to respected tribal leaders, federal agency representatives, elected officials, and top CEOs. Attendees will benefit from high caliber networking opportunities, business development sessions, a business tradeshow and expo, American Indian Artisan Market, procurement sessions, business matchmaking, and much more. Now in its fourth decade, National RES is the country’s leading Native American business event.

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“While our regional RES events have been tremendous successes, we are looking forward to once again returning to Las Vegas for our signature national event,” said National Center President and CEO Gary Davis. “National RES 2015 will connect Indian Country to business opportunities across many different sectors and fields. We will host business leaders, tribal representatives, and many others from across the U.S. in Las Vegas in a few weeks.”

The event kicks off with a scholarship golf tournament on Monday, March 9th. The opening day will feature a business boot camp, covering such topics as access to capital, communications, accounting, workforce development, and others. Monday also features the “Buy Native Procurement Expo” powered by the Small Business Administration.

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National RES will place a heavy focus on energy, and high-level officials within the Department of Energy will be at the event to discuss DOE programs. National RES will feature the largest American Indian business trade show and an “Interactive Access to Capital Fair” wherein attendees are encouraged to bring their projects to National RES to meet one-on-one with potential funders. Dozens of business development and training sessions will address topics such as e-commerce, federal and corporate contracting, agriculture, taxation, telecommunications, and legislative activity, including implementation of the Buy Indian Act… and much more.

To learn more about National RES, please visit www.res.ncaied.org. For a copy of the draft agenda, please click here.

About the National Center:

The National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. With over 40 years of assisting American Indian Tribes and their enterprises with business and economic development – we have evolved into the largest national Indian specific business organization in the nation. Our motto is: “We Mean Business For Indian Country” as we are actively engaged in helping Tribal Nations and Native business people realize their business goals and are dedicated to putting the whole of Indian Country to work to better the lives of American Indian people- both now… and for generations to come.

Fresno State Program Receives $1 Million Gift To Aid Deaf And Hard Of Hearing Community

(January 30, 2015) – A $1 million dollar gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous will address the growing need to train Valley educators to work with deaf and hard of hearing students who also have other special needs.

The gift will go toward the endowment of Scarlett’s Park, a program within Fresno State’s Silent Garden. The Silent Garden program was founded in 2008 by Dr. Paul W. Ogden, deaf studies professor emeritus, to foster opportunity, understanding and awareness for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Scarlett’s Park will provide resources to families of deaf and hard of hearing children with other special needs. The program will bring nationally recognized experts to Fresno State to share knowledge with parents, educators and professionals. All services will be offered free of charge.

The donor whose gift made Scarlett’s Park possible said in a letter to the University, “I have chosen Fresno State as a place to endow Scarlett’s Park in the Silent Garden because I see this unique garden as a fruitful place to create a lasting and much-needed resource for parents, teachers and professionals. My dream is that Scarlett’s Park will be a cornerstone of the deaf education program. I am joining Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro and his charge to be bold and to boldly serve this much-needed community.”

Once established, Scarlett’s Park will be the only program in California designed specifically for families with deaf or hard of hearing children with other special needs.

According to the Gallaudet Research Institute, about 40 percent of children identified as deaf or hard of hearing also have additional special needs, such as vision impairment, autism, cerebral palsy and learning disabilities.

“Teachers in the field of deaf education do not have the training and knowledge to teach any children with other special needs,” Ogden said. “The same is true for teachers in special needs programs. Special needs is a huge area and it is not possible for one teacher to become an expert. For example, working with a deaf, autistic child is an entirely different field from working with a deaf, blind child.”

Andrea DaSilva-Perez, a Fresno State deaf studies lecturer, said, in her experience working with middle school students, it was necessary to bring in an American Sign Language interpreter and a certified behavior analyst to properly care for the student.

“It is a challenge to find professionals who have specialized in working with deaf students with special needs,” DaSilva-Perez said. “They simply do the best they can with the skills they possess.”

Rosa Cruz of Fresno said services provided by Scarlett’s Park will be very beneficial for her and other parents of deaf and hard of hearing children with special needs.

She said she has seen her daughter, 17-year-old Joanna, thrive in the classroom and beyond because of services provided by teachers, psychologists and school administration. Cruz said a program like Scarlett’s Park is important for parents.

“I would advise parents to look for programs like Scarlett’s Park,” Cruz said. “It is very important that we help our children with special needs. We need our children to have that support so they can get the tools to be independent in life.”

Ogden hopes Scarlett’s Park will serve as a model for similar programs in other regions that might need more resources.

The California Department of Education reports more than 14,000 children list deaf or hard of hearing as a primary or secondary disability.

Dr. Bryan Berrett, chair of Fresno State’s Communicative Disorders and Deaf Studies Department, said this number will continue to grow. “There are countless children who are unaccounted for and not receiving assistance,” Berrett said. “Through education, we can help the next generation of deaf and hard of hearing individuals with special needs realize their potential and flourish in our community.”

GOQii Launches Exclusive U.S. Beta Will Open To 500 Participants

January 22, 2015 – San Francisco, CA – GOQii Inc., the digital health platform that is dedicated to enabling a permanent shift to a healthier lifestyle, announced today that its exclusive U.S. Beta trial will launch in February. GOQii (“GO-KEY”) is the only company built on the foundation of human-centric, one-on-one health coaching combined with wearables, health apps, big data, and Karma.

The GOQii Beta will be limited to 500 participants. Those selected to join the Beta will receive 12 months of personalized health coaching to help them with goal setting, habit change, accountability and motivation. GOQii coaching features unlimited daily chats and monthly video calls through the mobile app.

Included in the Beta’s subscription is the GOQii Band activity tracker and app to measure and track sleep, activities, nutrition and Karma Points, GOQii’s exclusive gamification system that converts daily goal achievement into real monetary donations for worthy causes. The exclusive price for the 12 month Beta is $99. Participants will be asked to provide regular feedback on the product as they use it. People can apply to join the Beta beginning on January 22 at GOQii.com.

Research has shown that fitness trackers alone do not make people healthier. GOQii’s integration of actual health coaches differentiates it from existing fitness applications, trackers and online services. Often unrealistic or unattainable goals are set to change bad habits, leading to a vicious cycle of disappointment and personal failure. Wearable devices that do more to effect behavior than simply present data can directly address the elements of habit change and trigger the sequences that lead to the establishment of new, positive habits.

With an inherent focus on personalized mentoring, GOQii coaches will interact individually with every user on a one-on-one basis as they endeavor to attain positive, long-term results through habit changes. GOQii Beta participants will communicate with their coaches via unlimited daily text messages and scheduled video chat sessions.

The U.S. GOQii Beta will include feature and service enhancements to the first version of GOQii released last year in India including: in-app video chats; integration with other popular health and fitness tracking apps, including Apple’s HealthKit; and an expanded global coaching network with U.S. based coaches.

“GOQii’s philosophy is driven by our passion for healthy and meaningful living,” explains GOQii Founder and CEO Vishal Gondal. “After using a number wearables, I felt that something was missing. They were just data-collecting gadgets and apps all of which lacked sustained engagement, motivation, customized advice and a human connection. I was looking for the complete solution for a more fulfilling way of life. With GOQii we have created that solution.”

The program takes a triple-pronged approach that focuses on the body, mind and soul. Coaches inspire users to maintain proper nutrition, activity levels and exercise, while monitoring the user’s sleep and health habit changes. And GOQii rewards users with Karma Points that translate into funds for reaching fitness goals by donating to global causes, fostering positive energy within the community. GOQii is currently partnered with Oxfam International—the global confederation of 17 organizations in 94 countries whose aim is to end poverty throughout the world.

Along with a team of internationally-renowned health experts, GOQii is expanding its network of certified health coaches to the U.S. Participants in the Beta will have the opportunity to select the coach who best suits their personal health and fitness goals.

“GOQii enhances and influences affirmative goal-oriented choices in building a better lifestyle. The best way to reach your potential and achieve your wellness goals is with a coach,” says Gondal. “Quality one-on-one health coaching has been prohibitively expensive for the average consumer. GOQii’s scalable platform allows us to deliver the same quality service at a fraction of the traditional price.”

ABOUT GOQii Inc.

GOQii Inc. is a digital health platform dedicated to enabling a permanent shift to a healthier lifestyle through a combination of one-on-one health coaching, activity tracking technology and Karma Points, GOQii’s exclusive points system that results in donations to worthy causes. At the heart of the system are the GOQii coaches who are driven by a passion for healthy sustainable living and believe in the boundless potential of their users.

Founded by one of India’s leading tech entrepreneurs, Vishal Gondal, GOQii has generated an overwhelming response during its trial launch in India and resulted in strong customer validation as well as partnerships with Microsoft, Oxfam International and Reebok.

GOQii is funded by leading angel investors, such as Amit Singhal (Google), Anil Godhwani (Habitera), Bharat Vasan (MyBasis), Marco Argenti (Amazon), Deepak Shahdadpuri (DSGCP), Dr. Shriram Nene, Esther Dyson (EFF), Gautam Godhwani (Simply Hired), Kanwaljit Bombra (Dell), Madhuri Dixit-Nene (Bollywood Actress), Mahesh Samat (Epic), Mike McNamara (Flextronics), Prashant Gulati (TiE), Sanjay Parthasarthy (Indix), Sanjay Vaswani, Steve Luczo (Seagate), Taher Khorakiwala, Vijay Vashee (Microsoft), Rajan Anandan (Google) and S. Somasegar (Microsoft) .

For more information, visit www.goqii.com.

Camp Kids Are Kids Chicago Gears Up For Successful Second Year

Exciting updates unveiled at recent camper reunion

On January 25, 2015, Camp Kids are Kids Chicago (CKAKC) – the only urban camp for kids living with cancer – hosted a reunion at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago (A Four Seasons Hotel) for children who attended the Camp’s inaugural session in August 2014. Campers and their families gathered in the Hotel’s Pearson Room, from 1-3pm. They reconnected with one another, enjoyed an array of sweet and savory treats, viewed a montage of 2014’s festivities, and learned exciting news about this year’s Camp.

“It was incredible to have everyone back together, as though we never parted ways,” said Blaine J. Blanchard, Founder, Camp Kids are Kids Chicago. “Watching the kids reunite and seeing a sea of smiles across the room was truly heartwarming. It made me even more excited for ‘Roughin’ it at The Ritz’ year two!”

Among the announcements were this year’s theme and dates. The 2015 Camp Kids are Kids will take place, from August 9-13, and “Game On” is the theme for the fun-filled five days. The Ritz-Carlton Chicago will, once again, act as the campground, transforming luxurious guest suites into bunk cabins, for a more ordinary camp experience.

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Furthermore, this year’s Camp Director was unveiled, Rich Brundige, who joined the group last year as Activities Coordinator. Rich has been involved with pediatric oncology camps for 18 years, holding a variety of leadership positions. He serves on the Children’s Oncology Camping Association- International (COCA-I) Board, expanding his involvement nationwide.

Last year’s Camp featured traditional activities, such as campfires and cookouts, arts and crafts, and swimming, while also taking advantage of the urban setting with a dinner cruise, visit to the Museum of Science and Industry, ice cream atop the famed John Hancock Center, and much more. Campers anxiously await August’s itinerary – sure to be another epic week – and, at the reunion, documented their vision for how “Game On” might unfold.

CKAKC is thrilled to host 32 children this year, an increase from last year’s 26, with absolutely no financial obligation from their families. Campers will be from the Chicagoland area, ages 8-16. Leading up to August, a number of local fundraisers will take place to help fund this year’s programming. For more information, visit http://www.campkidsarekids.org/.

Baleen Whales Hear Through Their Bones

Using a computer simulation of a fin whale head, scientists discovered the animal’s skull amplifies and conducts low frequencies directly to their ear bones.

The fin whale skull used for this study now resides in SDSU's Museum of Biodiversity.

The fin whale skull used for this study now resides in SDSU’s Museum of Biodiversity.

SAN DIEGO (January 29, 2015) — Understanding how baleen whales hear has posed a great mystery to marine mammal researchers. New research by San Diego State University biologist Ted W. Cranford and University of California, San Diego engineer Petr Krysl reveals that the skulls of at least some baleen whales, specifically fin whales in their study, have acoustic properties that capture the energy of low frequencies and direct it to their ear bones.

Baleen whales, also known as mysticetes, are the largest animals on earth, and include blue whales, minke whales, right whales, gray whales and fin whales. These whales can emit extremely low frequency vocalizations that travel extraordinary distances underwater. The wavelengths of these calls can be longer than the bodies of the whales themselves.

All of these whales are considered endangered, with the exception of the gray whale, which recently was removed from the endangered species list, Cranford said.

Over the past few years, government regulators have been attempting to enact laws placing limits on the amount of man-made noise that baleen whales can be exposed to. These man-made noises come primarily from three sources: commercial shipping, energy exploration, and military exercises.

According to Cranford, baleen whales might be particularly susceptible to negative effects from these sounds. Many of them produce vocalizations in the same frequency range as man-made noises, and too much man-made noise could limit the distance over which the whales are able to communicate about things like food and mates. Because low frequency sounds travel so far in the ocean, groups of whales that appear to be extremely far apart might indeed be within “hollerin’ distance,” as Cranford puts it.

However, little information was available about how baleen whales actually hear for government regulators to base new legislation on. Most of what scientists know about how whales hear comes from inferring their frequency range from their own vocalizations, as well as anatomic studies of the ears and some sound playback experiments with whales in controlled environments. Cranford and Krysl wanted to take a different approach: build a highly complex three-dimensional computer model of a baleen whale head—including the skin, skull, eyes, ears, tongue, brain, muscles, and jaws—and then simulate how sound would travel through it.

In 2003, they got their opportunity when a young fin whale beached on Sunset Beach in Orange County, California. Despite intensive efforts to save the whale, it died. Cranford and Krysl were able to obtain the animal’s head for their research, placing it in an X-ray CT scanner originally designed for rocket motors.

Once they had their scan, the researchers employed a technique known as finite element modeling that breaks up data representing the skull and other parts of the head into millions of tiny elements and tracks their relationships with one another.

It’s a bit like dividing the whale’s head into a series of LEGO bricks, Cranford explained, where the properties of the bone, muscle, and other materials determine how strong the connections are between the bricks. By simulating a sound wave passing through their computerized skull, they could see how each miniscule component of bone vibrates in response.

“At that point, computationally, it’s just a simple physics problem,” Cranford explained. “But it’s one that needs lots and lots of computational power. It can swamp most computers.”

There are two ways sound can reach a whale’s tympanoperiotic complex (TPC), an “interlocking bony puzzle” of ear bones that is rigidly attached to the skull. One way is for the sound’s pressure waves to travel through the whale’s soft tissue to their TPC, but this becomes ineffective once sound waves are longer than the whale’s body, Cranford said.

The second way is for sounds to vibrate along the skull, a process known as bone conduction. Unlike pressure waves passing through soft tissue, longer waves lengths are amplified as they vibrate the skull.

When Cranford and Krysl modeled various wavelengths traveling through their computerized skull, they found that bone conduction was approximately four times more sensitive to low frequency sounds than the pressure mechanism. Importantly, their model predicts that for the lowest frequencies used by fin whales, 10 Hz – 130 Hz, bone conduction is up to 10 times more sensitive.

“Bone conduction is likely the predominant mechanism for hearing in fin whales and other baleen whales,” Cranford said. “This is, in my opinion, a grand discovery.”

Krysl added that we humans experience a version of this phenomenon, too.

“We have that experience when we submerge entirely in a pool,” he said. “Our ears are useless, but we still hear something because our head shakes under the pushing and pulling of the sound waves carried by the water.”

The researchers published their results today in the journal PLOS ONE. The fin whale skull used for their experiment now resides in SDSU’s Museum of Biodiversity.

It’s possible these new findings will help legislators decide on limits to oceanic man-made noise, but Cranford stressed that what’s most important about their project is that they managed to solve a long-standing mystery about a highly inaccessible animal.

“What our contribution does is give us a window into how the world’s largest animals hear, by an odd mechanism no less,” he said. “This research has driven home one beautiful principle: Anatomic structure is no accident. It is functional, and often beautifully designed in unanticipated ways.”

Cranford and Krysl have studied many species of toothed whales and beaked whales over the past 13 years, as well as dolphins and fish. Their next step is to try to replicate the study for other species of baleen whales. The researchers will be reaching out to museums that house whale skulls.

“There is a blueprint for multiple species and it is useful to compare across species to gain insight,” Krysl explained.

The researchers’ work would not have been possible without support from the Office of Naval Research (Code 32), sponsored by Dr. Michael J. Weise; the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Environmental Readiness Division (OPNAV N45), sponsored through the Living Marine Resources program by Dr. Frank Stone and Dr. Robert Gisiner; and X-ray CT scanning was conducted at Hill Air Force Base in Clearfield, Utah, in the Non-Destructive Inspection Missile Support Group. The latter facility is the only one large enough in the world to produce the data needed for this study.

U.S. Charitable Giving Tops $450 Billion in 2014

Initial forecast for 2015 predicts drop in donations

DALLAS, Texas (January 28, 2015)—Atlas of Giving today shared the 2014 final report on charitable giving in the United States and released the initial 2015 giving forecast. As noted in the final report, Americans gave a record $456.7 billion to charity in 2014. According to the year-end report, total donations grew by 9.3% over 2014, fueled by favorable economic factors that drive giving, an increase in the number of nonprofit organizations, the impact of donor advised funds, as well as advances in fundraising technology and techniques.

“Charitable giving in the U.S. is primarily a function of specific economic and demographic factors, coupled with the impact of regional, national and world events,” Rob Mitchell, CEO of the Atlas of Giving, said. “How a charity chooses to go about raising money and who they raise it from determines what impact the various drivers of giving activity have on gifts to that organization.”

The biggest gains in gift revenue were realized by human services/disaster relief organizations, educational institutions and environmental causes. In 2014, double digit growth in stock prices encouraged these increases in giving to organizations such as colleges and universities, which rely heavily on large gifts and capital campaigns. An improved employment picture coupled with reduced energy prices boosted giving from discretionary income to disaster relief, social service agencies and environmental programs, most of which depend on a high volume of smaller donations to fund operations.

Improved consumer confidence also played a role in giving growth. “Mood matters,” Mitchell, said. “When consumers feel better about the economy, they tend to give more.”

The report also cites low inflation and historically low interest rates as factors which contributed to a robust year of receipts for America’s nonprofits. Other factors which contributed to the rise in giving include a continued surge in the number of new nonprofits and churches in the U.S., as well as an enormous increase in contributions to donor advised fund accounts. In fact, the number of U.S. nonprofit organizations recognized by the IRS has grown 50% since 2003.

Mitchell says the impact of donor advised funds on giving is enormous and growing. “In 2014, donor advised funds accounted for $29.4 billion in giving. That’s 6.4% of all giving in the U.S.” Mitchell noted.

While donations to churches and religious causes remains the largest giving category, representing one third of all gifts, giving to religious organizations grew at a rate of only 6.4% in 2014. Comparatively, gifts to human services/disaster relief organizations increased 12.7%, while gifts to environmental causes and educational institutions rose 11.8% and 11.5%, respectively.

The initial forecast for giving in 2015 is far less positive. The Atlas projects that giving could actually drop from 2014 levels by as much as 3.2%. The last time total annual giving fell was in 2009, when recessionary conditions brought about a 5.8% decline from the 2008 total. The forecast cites an anticipated stock market correction, along with an expected rise in interest rates in the second half of 2015 as primary drivers of an upcoming downturn in giving.

Global economic factors are also expected to negatively impact 2015 giving. Weakening economies in Germany, France and Italy could negatively impact many American corporations, and rising geostrategic competition from Asia may weaken the value of some U.S. companies, putting pressure on American jobs and compensation levels.

The Atlas of Giving reports and forecasts U.S. charitable giving on a monthly basis by charitable sector, gift source and all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.

The full Atlas of Giving report on 2014 giving and forecast for 2015 is available at no charge at www.atlasofgiving.com.

About The Atlas of Giving

The Atlas of Giving is an economic intelligence tool created to measure and reliably forecast charitable giving in the United States. The Atlas of Giving was originally engineered by Philanthromax, LLC in 2010. Data from the Atlas of Giving is gathered from a series of proprietary algorithms using multiple economic and demographic variables. The algorithms match published giving data for the last 42 years with a 99.5% coefficient of correlation. The Atlas of Giving accounts for the entire giving economy and is the most precise and timely measurement of total charitable giving in the United States, as well as the only giving forecast. For more information, visit www.atlasofgiving.com.

FitzGibbon Media Opens London Office, Welcomes Suzie Gilbert as Vice President to Lead International Work

Leading Progressive Communications Firm Continues Expansion with Focus On Human Rights, Environment and Social and Economic Justice

Washington, DCFitzGibbon Media, Inc., a leading progressive communications firm, today announced that it has opened a London office and hired Vice President Suzie Gilbert to run it. London is the first international office for the six-year old firm that also has offices in Washington DC, New York City and San Francisco.

“We are excited to expand our international reach with the establishment of a London office with Suzie at the helm,” said Trevor FitzGibbon, Founder and President of FitzGibbon Media. “Suzie’s extensive work in the UK, South America, the Middle East and around the world, will be a great asset as FitzGibbon Media continues to help the most important progressive campaigns of our day to break out and break through with audiences across the globe.”

Suzie Gilbert, who was born and raised in London, has over a decade of experience advising filmmakers, whistleblowers and international NGOs on media relations and heightening the social impact of campaigns. She worked closely with Oliver Stone, co-producing and leading communications efforts for films including “The Untold History of the U.S., “W.,” and “South of the Border.” Suzie has also worked with Russell Brand on a documentary in post-production, staying at Angola Prison in Louisiana, to capture first-hand accounts of death row and mass incarceration.

Leading delegations with artists such as Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro to Latin America, meeting Presidents Lula da Silva, Dilma Rousseff and Hugo Chavez, Suzie brings a wealth of artist relationships and international expertise to FitzGibbon Media’s global practice to support change agents abroad.

“I’m thrilled to join the FitzGibbon team, working on progressive campaigns developed by so many savvy organizations and individuals already doing brilliant work here in London and internationally,” said Suzie Gilbert, Vice President and London Office Director at FitzGibbon Media. “In today’s interconnected society, it is more important than ever to connect the values of our global community to the change we seek to protect our environment, advance workers rights and ensure that our fundamental freedoms are preserved. We are excited to lend a hand to help push these efforts to a new level.”

FitzGibbon Media works exclusively with progressive clients and specializes in strategic communications, digital strategy and engaging high profile artists, musicians and actors with cutting edge campaigns. The firm worked with more than seventy clients in 2014, on projects spanning human rights, the environment, digital rights, immigration, the criminal justice system, health care, campaign finance and gun law reform. In addition this work, the firm partnered with the filmmakers of two Oscar-nominated documentaries, The Invisible War and Dirty Wars, spurring large grassroots campaigns with targeted media outreach and digital engagement strategies.

Ahead of the expanded theatrical release of Laura Poitras’ critically acclaimed documentary CitizenFour—providing a first-hand account of Edward Snowden’s disclosure of the NSA’s mass surveillance program—the firm recruited celebrities including Moby, Russell Brand, Susan Sarandon, Viggo Mortensen and Thurston Moore to take an unprecedented public stand in support of whistleblowers and publishers, and Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and British fashion legend Dame Vivienne Westwood to encourage their fans to watch the film.

FitzGibbon Media’s international clients have included Global Zero, Walk Free, Care 2, 350.org, ThoughtWorks, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill and the team at The Intercept and SumofUs. For more information on FitzGibbon Media: http://www.fitzgibbonmedia.com/

71 Communities Launch Participation in Zero: 2016 to End Veteran and Chronic Homelessness in the Next Two Years

January 28, 2015 — This week, 71 communities from across the country launched their local participation in Zero: 2016, a national movement coordinated by the NYC non-profit Community Solutions, to end veteran and chronic homelessness in the next two years. During the launch of Zero: 2016, volunteers in 49 participating partner communities are walking the streets in the dark to interview all local residents experiencing homelessness — tallying each individual, but also identifying them by name and gathering key information on their histories and housing needs. These by-name lists will allow Zero: 2016 communities to quickly and efficiently connect individuals with the best housing option to fit their specific needs, setting communities on a path to end veteran homelessness by December 31, 2015 and chronic homelessness one year later.

Zero: 2016 is coordinated by Community Solutions, with the assistance of implementation partners at CSH, OrgCode and the Rapid Results Institute. The initiative, made possible by the support of major sponsors including Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, The Home Depot Foundation, Walker Dunlop and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, is a rigorous follow-on to Community Solutions’ successful 100,000 Homes Campaign, in which 186 communities housed 105,000 chronically homeless Americans in under four years, including more than 31,000 veterans. The initiative is rooted in the belief that communities can house far more people with existing housing resources than they may realize by adopting best practices and using data to better organize local systems.

The federal government requires all communities to conduct an annual point-in-time count (PIT) of those experiencing homelessness during the last ten days of January. But while anonymous count data is important for tracking federal trends and allocating resources, communities need by-name information in order to reconnect with those they count on the streets and work with them to escape homelessness. That’s why 49 of the 71 communities participating in Zero: 2016 will take this year’s PIT counts a step further by creating and continuously updating by-name lists of all individuals experiencing homelessness.

The recently released results of the 2014 Homeless Point-in-Time Count showed that on a single night in January 2014, there were an estimated 85,000 chronically homeless individuals and just under 50,000 homeless veterans nationally — 31,669 of these chronically homeless individuals and 16,218 of these homeless veterans live in communities participating in Zero: 2016. These numbers represent a 33 percent decrease in veteran homelessness and a 21 percent decrease in chronic homelessness nationally since the 2010 PIT Count. With actionable, person-specific data, updated during this year’s PIT Count, local agencies will be able to connect people to appropriate housing options and available subsidies quickly, housing more people and ensuring that resources are being used as effectively as possible.

“By creating a constantly updated, by-name list of each person experiencing homelessness, Zero: 2016 communities are taking one of the most critical steps toward ending homelessness within the next two years,” said Zero: 2016 Director Beth Sandor. “It is no longer enough to count your homeless neighbors anonymously once a year. That practice is necessary, but not sufficient. To be sure you are housing the most vulnerable residents within your community, you need to know exactly who they are in real time and begin rapidly and methodically housing them one by one.”

Sandor also pointed to a growing collection of cost studies showing that it costs taxpayers far less to provide supportive housing to homeless individuals than to continue to fund their emergency service usage on the streets. In fact, she said, providing housing to veterans and individuals experiencing chronic homelessness could reduce taxpayer costs by as much as 40% through housing, health and employment approaches that eliminate costly and unnecessary hospitalizations, jail visits and shelter stays.

Over the next 3 months, local agencies and organizations will work closely with the Zero: 2016 team at Community Solutions to streamline interagency coordination and local housing systems, ensuring that all people experiencing homelessness are assessed and matched to available housing through a consistent, centralized and evidence-based process. This data will be used to develop clear targets for the total number of individuals that need to be housed each month in order to end and maintain an end to veteran and chronic homelessness in communities across the country.

Community Solutions is a national non-profit dedicated to helping communities solve the complex social problems facing their most vulnerable residents. The organization’s work applies design thinking, quality improvement and a host of other cross-sector disciplines to issues like homelessness, unemployment, and public health. Zero: 2016 is a rigorous follow-on to the organization’s successful 100,000 Homes Campaign designed to help a select group of communities end chronic and veteran homelessness in the next two years.

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